Power Rank - IPL4 Edition
by fionn and Waxangel
We've used the "International tournament X is an extension of GSL" joke too freely in the past, not knowing that one day it would become a reality. With twenty odd GSL class players at both MLG Providence and Winter Championship, it looked like that was the closest we'd ever get to seeing an unofficial American GSL event. Nope, with forty GSL players competing at IPL4, and the GSTL finals to boot, this tournament actually should be renamed
IEM GSL Global Challenge Las Vegas.
Under these special circumstances, the POWER RANK PREVIEW returns after a tasty debut at MLG Winter Championship. Last time we ranked the top forty players, but this time we've cut it down to twenty. Why? We figured most people aren't interested in reading about ranks 40 through 21 when they're are all Code A Koreans they've never heard of. Yes, they're going to beat all of your foreigner favorites anyway, and we'll not give you an overly lengthy prelude to heartbreak.
First off, this rank applies only to players competing at IPL4 (160 words in, I wonder how many people will miss it this time). What did we learn from the last Power Rank? That Grubby reads our news *Swoon* and that so does HuK *Booo*. However, we haven't let that change anything, so here's a slightly revised copy paste from MLG Winter Championship:
"Who would beat whom in a best of 101 series with their lives on the line?" That crossed our minds. So did "Who had the best tournament results in the past X months?" Those, and many other questions factored in as we attempted to figure out an inherently arbitrary and contentious thing: "who's better?" It was a complex process, which we're not even sure we completely understand ourselves. By reaching a compromise between more than one opinion, we've ensured that no one was pleased with the end result. A few notes:
The Power Rank does not suggest that a higher ranked player is better than a lower ranked player in a head to head. Rankings are an overall package. For example, there are many Terran players ranked beneath Oz who we think could beat him in a 1v1, but we think Oz is just better on the whole.
Also, the PR is not a ranking of everyone's chances to win the tournament, though we will mention that purely as a point of interest for some players. There's a lot of bracket luck involved, as well as a considerable advantage given to players who start in the group stage. Again, the Power Rank is just our all-around answer to the question "who's better?"
The Power Rank
Honorable mentions have been cancelled, because you can only make so many Destiny and iNcontrol jokes in a month.
#20: GhostKingPrime and MaruPrime
A tie? Really? Well, we were filling out our top twenty and these two Prime Terrans were just too difficult to separate. Both are coming to Las Vegas with the words wild card tattooed on their foreheads, and they could go very far if they can translate their current play in Korea to their first international events.
GhostKing, formely known as Byun, has always been one of the best players on the Korean Grandmaster ladder. People forget, but back during GSL July, GhostKing was a lot like how another player in Las Vegas, Alive, is playing currently in the GSL. Not only did GhostKing make the Code S semifinals, but he got there by decimating sC, MVP, Nada, and then made the biggest comeback in GSL history by getting beat up in his first two games against Bomber in the quarterfinals before making a comeback with three straight victories. He would lose to Losira in the semifinals, but GhostKing proved that he was a Terran that could be a regular fixture in Code S.
Then he left ZeNex and joined Prime since everyone leaves ZeNex, got into that scandal with Coca during a Korean Weekly*, and was suspended for months. Finally, after a long break to think about what he did, GhostKing has come back with a vengeance with his new team, being one of the main reasons they're in Las Vegas due to his three-kill against other GSTL finalist Startale.
The third cog in the Prime Terran Trio besides the two Kings is Maru, the fourteen-year-old who has taken the GSL by storm. After having an absolutely horrendous time in GSL months ago when he put on a terrible performance against now LoL coach FruitDealer, Maru didn't let this chance slip by, topping his Up and Down group before one upping himself by getting 1st in his Code S Ro32 group. This is his first foreign tournament, and as a fourteen-year-old, going to Las Vegas for your first big non-Korean offline tournament could be intimidating. But honestly, compared to the two Kings, Maru might actually be the most calm, cool and collected of the three. He might be a kid, but Maru has already shown the skill and patience of a veteran.
*It always seemed like a case of stupidity and carelessness, more than any true maliciousness on CoCa or Byun's part.
Ganzi has been remarkably cold in the GSL after a stint as one of its most consistently good players, but at least he's keeping up the pace in international tournaments, beating players like Mvp, MC, JYP and viOLet. In some ways, Ganzi is starting to look like a mini-Bomber, a player who has the skills to beat anyone in the world, but not consistently. He's a top eight threat in any tournament he enters – whether it's a daily online cup or Code S – but he's had a lot of trouble (and bad luck) stringing together enough good performances in a row to make a championship push.
If this was solely based on online skill, then Taeja has a case for being in the top ten and maybe even top five. But unlike his various online accomplishments and impressive showings lately in the GSL, IPL4 is a whole different beast from anything the young Terran has ever faced. Yes, he went to Assembly and did reasonably well, topping his group before falling to Polt in the round of sixteen, but the task of going through your first Open Bracket on a new team, after doing so amazing in the GSL, is going to put a lot of pressure on Taeja. It wouldn't be a surprise if Taeja was still alive on Championship Sunday, playing for a title, but it also wouldn't be that shocking if he was eliminated in the Open Bracket due to his inexperience in these type of sprint-like tournaments.
It doesn't really matter where we put HuK, because he's just going to steal our laptop at IPL4, login on our accounts, and place himself at #1 through #20. Anyway, can he really even argue with this positioning? Everyone else ahead of him is in Code S, or has better hair.
Like a lot of other players, this is Curious' first big weekend tournament. The thing that separates him from the rest of the offline tournament virgins, simply put, is that he doesn't care. To Curious, he could be playing Starcraft 2 on the moon in a ten billion dollar tournament against aliens, and I think he would still play the same way he always does, with the same, statuesque, emotionless look that he always has when playing. In a tournament and Open Bracket full of Terrans, Curious' ZvT, which has been nothing short of outstanding lately, could be the key for him to make it to the pools on Saturday. While the glitz and glamor of Las Vegas with tons of fans might be able to shake a lot of the players this weekend, but Curious isn't one of them
Inevitably, MLG will release the Winter Championship replays in the middle of IPL4, and thus we won't be able to know how exactly Inori managed to beat Stephano. Regardless of how it happened, it's no shame for Stephano that he was eliminated in that hell known as the open bracket, where players like Polt, Puzzle and Ganzi have bit the dust before. It'll take more than one disappointing tournament to take the luster off how well Stephano has been playing, especially when pro-gamers keep insisting that he's Code S class. Now that he's seeded into pool play, he's instantly been upgraded from a long shot to title contender (though that fact doesn't factor into this ranking).
Here's an anecdote to wrap up how I feel about Stephano: An unnamed pro-gamer suggested to me that some Koreans would rather face Nestea than try to beat Stephano. At first, I laughed. But moments later, shock slowly spread through my body as I realized that it actually might make sense.
The master of 1/1/1, and one of the most feared prize-money hunters in the world was dealt a grave blow at MLG Winter Championship, when the fantastically coiffed Socke scored a massive upset and knocked PuMa out of the tournament. PuMa may have been expected to have trouble against Code S level Koreans, but getting eliminated by a foreign Protoss was a shock indeed.
However, that's hardly cause for alarm for PuMa (though it's certainly reason enough to celebrate for Socke, who rode that win to a four game winning streak, finishing with a cool $1,500 in prize money). No one's invincible, and if you recall, PuMa was upset by IdrA twice in 2011. He still made over $100,001 in winnings that year, and is still one of the best international tournament players out there.
I'll give PuMa a mulligan on MLG Winter Championship. For now, all I need to know is that he out-mindgamed MMA, and came within a hair of beating MC at the IEM World Championship.
During an interview, oGs head coach TheWind told me that over 50% of pro-gaming was a mental game, and not about pure skill. I wish he had also told me that the process of fortifying your mental strength and icing down the blood in your veins is not a straight line process – you take a few steps forward, a few steps back, and hope that you'll become a better player over time.
When HerO won a championship at DreamHack Winter, I thought he had finally reached that place in his head that would let him play to his full potential. Obviously, I was wrong, and he bombed out of HomeStoryCup and IEM Kiev in terribly disappointing fashion.
However, through all the peaks and valleys, he's slowly but surely improved, and he's now at the best point he's ever been in his career. He's still far from perfect – a mistake fraught showing in Code S revealed that much. But he still got through his group in second place in his Code S debut, making enough good decisions against Curious while retaining his composure under relentless pressure that might have cracked him months ago.
The skill has always been there for HerO – it's time to show he's become someone who can really make it pay off.
Seven months ago, Polt's play was a lot like a back alley brawler. While he didn't have the best mechanics or technique in the world, his knack for knowing the correct moves and being unpredictable were able to push him to a Super Tournament championship and various high place finishes in the GSL. Now, Polt is the captain of TSL and has become a professional fighter with the precise mechanics and techniques that he sorely lacked. While we've seen players fall off in the past year due to not adapting their play style, players like Polt and MarineKing have changed up their play and laughed at the critics who thought they would fall off over time.
Polt, in his four international offline tournaments, has a 75% win percentage, but only one title to his name out of those four. The biggest reason that Polt hasn't been able to capture another title outside his big Assembly win is that he's become too predictable. Yes, Polt, a player who once was laughed at for never going over two bases, has now become a player who will try to be on more bases than a Zerg in the late game. The Polt who won the Super Tournament might not have been a player who relied on his macro to win, but his unpredictable style was a big reason why he won.
For example, look at the recent IPL Tournament of Champions which Jjakji won. Polt, after beating Squirtle, faced the HoSeo ace and every game tried to get the early economic advantage by going CC first. This would have been great and all, but Jjakji didn't allow the games go to the late game, doing early pushes and all-ins in all four games and winning three of them to take the series. The same can be said about Polt at the recent MLG Winter Championship where Sheth watched every single Stephano/Polt game the night before, and 2 - 0'd him with a smart counter-build.
Polt should be commended for evolving and going from a one base/two base timing attacker to a player who loves to go for a long macro game, but for him to win this weekend in Las Vegas, he'll need to vary up his play and maybe show a bit of the Polt that won the Super Tournament.
We didn't need to see Oz take a backseat to Choya in a crucial GSTL game where Prime had Maru, GhostKing, and MKP remaining to know that there was something wrong with his PvT. A 5 – 9 record in March already tells you what you need to know. Though we didn't take expected results at IPL4 into consideration for the power rank (since the pool play advantage would skew that immensely), it was interesting to take gander at Oz's bracket. Notable Terrans: Ganzi, Virus, HasHe. Whew, Oz! You dodged a bullet.
Outside that one, rather glaring problem, Oz should probably be able to beat, or at least break even against anyone else. For Zergs, I don't see DRG here, while Nestea's condition is still in question. Stephano is definitely an interesting opponent, but that match-up will probably be fairly even at least. In terms of PvP, Oz has been one of the bestplayers in the world for the last few months, with only Top 1 PvP HuK able to top him (now leave us alone, Chris).
Katy Perry's Hot N Cold is a song that's pretty much written for Bomber. He's hot and he's cold, in and out of GSL, and always toying with my heart about whether I like or dislike him as a player (also he retire-unretired). His latest Up-Down-Up of all-killing NS HoSeo, getting knocked out of Code A, and then clearing the Code A preliminaries like it was nothing, was a performance that bordered on comedy.
As wild a ride as Bomber might be, would you really have him any other way? If you averaged out his highs and lows, and made him a player who consistently performed at a middling level between those poles, then there would be very little that is special about him. If those abyssal lows are the cost for those stratospheric highs, then so be it.
Only once in his career has Bomber been able to stay in top-shape for long enough to bring home a championship, and that was at MLG Raleigh. Though he's marred by inconsistency, there's always a chance that he will bring his best for just long enough, for three days and twenty odd games. Additionally, his ladder-monster nature suggests that he'll be more comfortable in the rapid-fire format of IPL4 than the meticulously prepared-for matches of the GSL. Whatever happens, get ready for a wild ride.
(I'm going to semi-guarantee that if he does well in GSTL or IPL4, he will crash and burn in the other.)
#9: FnaticRC aLive
Alive might be, at this moment, the best TvT player in the world. He also might be one of the better TvP'ers in the world. But his TvZ, which used to be one of his stronger match-ups, is now his biggest weakness. In the past two weeks, he got eliminated from Code S by losing to Zenio and July. At MLG Winter, he almost to HeavensLight before getting eliminated in the championship bracket by Violet 2-0. To top it all off, in the ONOG Invitational, he dropped four straight games to Catz and TLO. Alive might have a lot of positives coming into Vegas, but if he doesn't fix his TvZ, he'll be out of the tournament before Sunday.
Bearers of significant Brood War experience, headliners of Incredible Miracle, three time GSL champions, victims of untimely slumps, relinquishers of racial thrones, possessors of exploding wrists. Nestea and Mvp mirror each other more closely each day; they might as well be the Zerg and Terran playing aspects of the same person.
However, they differ importantly in the fact that Nestea has squeezed out results that give his followers reason to believe in a god's imminent resurrection, whereas Mvp quietly allows more nails to be hammered into his coffin.
Nestea was barely eliminated in the RO16 of a Code S where he looked quite good, but more impressively, he managed to win a brutal MLG Winter Arena Korean qualifier, which was filled to the brim with top class GSL players. Though he disappointed in the Winter Arena event itself, he showed that he still retained some of the spark that made him such a special, dominant player in the past.
In Mvp's case, he's fallen to a point where beating him almost isn't an accomplishment anymore. When Gumiho, Sniper, Seal and Ret beat him, we thought "wow, those guys must have really gotten good!" However, with the losses starting to pile up dangerously high, it's starting to seem like the more accurate assessment is "wow, Mvp really got worse." Perhaps it's his wrist injury, or perhaps it's just the jadedness that comes with incredible success – whatever it is, this is not the Mvp of the past. Yet, for a player who was unbelievably dominant for so long, it would be an insult to abandon hope so soon. For now, we still believe he will find a way back.
If the IEM World Championship was MC at his best, then the MLG Winter Championship was MC at his most mediocre. When his calculated risks (both aggressive and greedy) pay off, MC can compete with anyone in the world. When they don't... well then he loses to Ganzi and ThorZaIN, almost loses to CrazymoviNG, and gets mauled by TvP monster MKP in straight up games.
Though he's a far from being the dominant player he was one year ago, and though he can lose rather lopsidedly when things don't go his way, MC is still one of the most unpredictable, dangerous players to face. There are few players – if any – who can play the strategy mind-games as well as MC, and he is definitely an opponent no one wants to meet in the elimination stages of a tournament.
Wait, what? Does this mean we're calling PartinG the best Protoss player in the world?
Uhhh... I guess? Kinda?
This really is an awkward position to be in, as we think he's the best among all the Protoss players, but somehow feel highly uncomfortable actually giving him that official title. In the past, the title of "Best (insert race) player in the world" has been owned by guys like MKP, DRG, Nestea, Mvp, MMA, and MC, guys who just demolished their opponents and won championships.
PartinG just doesn't have that kind of oomph – though no one else has it either. MC is a dangerous maverick but not a dominating force, Genius choked too hard in the GSL finals and GSTL semis for us to forgive him, Oz is like PartinG with an even weaker aura. Protoss might be having its best stretch in a year, but there's still no face to the movement. PartinG at least has one incredibly impressive match-up in his PvT, and he could easily ride that to a championship given good brackets.
Leenock took a small step back after his MLG Providence victory, as a bombardment of the Protoss opponents he had managed to avoid in the USA exposed his relative weakness in that match-up compared to his ZvT and ZvZ. A three day period in late February proved to be his worst, where he was denied direct entry to Code S by IM's Seed, and knocked out of MLG Arena by NaNiwa and Oz.
However, a few weeks later, Leenock emerged looking like a brand new ZvP beast, smashing Ace and InCa to secure Code S, and taking down PvZ expert HerO in an extremely crucial ace match to continue FXO's progress through the GSTL. It looked like he had figured out the ZvP formula that DRG and Stephano had already solved, knowing how to get into a three-base position capable of both solid defense and relentless attack. If his ZvP problems are truly gone for good, then DongRaeGu should watch out. Leenock has never wanted for ZvT and ZvZ ability, and if his ZvP is at the same level, he could very well overtake DRG as the best Zerg in the world.
Yes, Jjakji, dear Power Rank reader. Let me ask you a question. Has a GSL champion ever disappointed at a foreign tournament?
He might have been eliminated from the most recent GSL by having to play his worst match-up three straight times, but that doesn't mean he isn't one of the best players heading to Las Vegas this weekend. While a lot of players got to IPL4 from the GSTL, being on a rich team, or getting an invite for being popular, Jjakji had to battle his way to Vegas. On a team with no real big sponsors, the only way Jjakji was going to get to Las Vegas was winning the IPL Tournament of Champions.
Not only did he win the tournament, but he wiped the floor with the competition. Polt and Creator, his two toughest opponents, he beat by a total score of 9-2 and ended the tournament with an overall record of 15-3. He's a recent GSL champion and not only has one of the best TvZ's in the world (maybe only bested by the two people in front of him on this ranking), but also one of the best TvP's in the world which he showed in the Tournament of Champions when he made Creator, one of the better PvT players in the world, look like a scrub.
If I'm HoSeo, I would be buying ten body guards to be around Jjakji the whole weekend, and putting ten lawyers on retainer back at home. He is already one of the best Terrans in the world, and with a big weekend in Vegas, I wouldn't be surprised if some foreign teams try to roll their luck on the youngest GSL champion of all-time.
Hey, remember me? You know, the True Son of Boxer? The two-time GSL champion? One of the most popular players on the planet, who less than two months ago, was considered the best player in the entire world and the Terran to knock MVP off his throne?
Yes, MarineKing might be on the roll of a lifetime, but MMA still has one hand firmly gripped on the imaginary Undisputed Best Starcraft 2 Player in the World trophy that a lot of people seem to have already given to MKP. It isn't that MMA has gotten bad recently or is even in a slump, but that he just hasn't been playing any games at all. While MKP, Polt, Stephano, etc. have been traveling the world and winning offline tournaments, MMA has been chilling at the SlayerS house.
No, he wasn't able to win the IEM World Championship after going on a huge winning streak, losing to Puma in the semifinals. Nor was he able to go far in last season's GSL (by his standards), losing in the quarterfinals to Alive while playing under the weather, but MMA is still one of the most accomplished players in Starcraft 2 history. For example, he is the only player in the world who can say that he has completed the International Triple Crown in SC2, being able to win a major tournament in North America, Europe and Korea. MC and Polt can complete the Triple Crown this weekend with their first wins in America, and MVP could do it as well if ever decides to compete in a European tournament, but right now, MMA is the only player to complete this feat.
All hail the King. During the MLG Winter Power Rank, we had him second, but with his second straight MLG victory and an impressive follow up performance in the GSL, there is no way MKP cannot be ranked #1 going into this tournament. Last week was truly MKP's best week of his career:
- Won MLG Winter against DongRaeGu
- Got 1st in his Code S group by beating July and Zenio
- Closed out for his team in the GSTL semi-finals, beating Leenock in the 6th set to bring his whole team to Las Vegas
For a player who was once known for having nervousness and confidence issues, MarineKing has turned that all around and has shown in the past month that he is someone who won't wilt under the pressure. If it was the MarineKing from a year ago who had to face Leenock in the semifinals, there would be a very good chance that he would have failed and crumbled with the entire pressure of his team on his shoulders. Now, as an improved player truly deserving of the title of King, he was able to push the nerves away and grab the victory for the team, beating down Leenock in a one-sided affair.
If he can win IPL4, there will be no doubt that he is the best player in the world.
Writers:Fionn and Waxangel.